Higher prices and increasing costs are taking a toll on household budgets nationwide.
Angela Johnson knows this well. The retiree sticks to a strict budget, one that can’t handle too many hits. So when Duke Energy contractors knocked on her apartment door in Winston-Salem, N.C., offering to save her some money, well, she let them right in.
They swapped lightbulbs for energy-efficient LEDs and insulated the hot water heater. They even checked the lights in her closets.
Those few minutes will add up to more than a few dollars for Johnson.
The contractors are a part of Duke Energy’s Multifamily Energy Efficiency Program. Teams replace an array of lightbulbs, showerheads and aerators with energy-efficient versions at no cost to the resident or the property owner. In other words, it’s free. Even the installation. (Nest Thermostats are available at a reduced cost to the property owner.)
Johnson pays about $70 monthly for her electricity. The energy-efficient upgrades should save her about $85 annually.
Every little bit helps.
That’s exactly why Burke Ridge Crossing property manager Tracy Spring listened to the pitch from the contractor, Franklin Energy, when an energy advisor explained how the program works. She knew it could help her residents, like Johnson, save money.
Residents, she said, were excited. By the time the Franklin Energy folks were done, nearly all of the complex’s 336 apartments had new LED lighting and wraps on their hot water heater pipes.
Spring knows any amount of savings helps some tenants. She also knows the importance of being energy efficient.
“It’s really to help the whole world as a whole,” she said, “when you’re using less energy on the grid.”
That philosophy aligns with Burke Ridge’s corporate owner, Blue Ridge Companies, to make an impact.
Fred Kicsak, vice president-maintenance and service for Blue Ridge Companies, said the program benefits both the environment and the bottom line.
“We really wanted to make a difference,” he said, “but the business end of it just made really good sense.”
The business end can be affected by a lightbulb. Or hundreds of thousands of them. An LED bulb is estimated to last six to 10 years – increasing efficiency while decreasing hours devoted to maintenance.
This is Blue Ridge’s second time taking part in the Multifamily Energy Efficiency Program, and Kicsak plans to work with Duke Energy to upgrade at least a dozen more properties.
The Multifamily Energy Efficiency Program is available to eligible customers of Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, Duke Energy Kentucky and Duke Energy Indiana.
Not all property owners are as enthusiastic as Kicsak – at first.
Raleigh-based Franklin Energy is the bridge between property owners and Duke Energy. Energy advisors fan out to educate property managers and owners about the Multifamily Energy Efficiency Program.
One question advisors often get is: “Why?” As in, “Why should I sign on for the program when I don’t pay for tenants’ utilities?”
Franklin Energy Outreach Manager Josh Woodruff said it helps to show owners what energy efficiency can mean for their community. The contractor also upgrades the property’s common areas.
“When you really see the numbers of just how much they’re going to save, just how many products you’re going to be installing for them for absolutely nothing,” he said, “those are the things that they can take off their books.”
For an average apartment complex, estimates show a year’s worth of energy savings can save more than $32,000.
It can also equate to planting more than 3,000 trees and taking more than 30 cars off the road.
So, why do it? Why does Duke Energy, which sells energy, invest so much in a program to save it?
“Energy efficiency is extremely important to Duke Energy because it creates a more resilient power grid and reduces energy waste,” said Cameron Woodard, who oversees the program at Duke Energy.
Multifamily communities have been underserved by energy efficiency programs, Woodard said, and Duke Energy wants to help those renters while also educating them about the benefits of being energy efficient.
The program is one of the many parts of Duke Energy’s broader plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“Energy efficiency plays right into that. That is how we’re going to get there, producing clean energy, but also being energy efficient. Through Duke Energy, but also with our customers and helping them.”
Angela Johnson’s strict budget got some help.
“I couldn't ask for better,” she said when describing her experience.